Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 21 2013 - Romans 7:1-12 – Living from the inside out

Paul paints a strong contrast between two patterns of life. His former life was shaped by the law – not just the Ten Commandments but the whole pattern of law given through Moses. This, says Paul, proved stifling and deadly; not because there was anything wrong with the law but because there was something wrong with him. Sin made the law its playground, stirring up all manner of rebellion and bringing condemnation and death.

I once heard a story, which may well be apocryphal, about a teacher of a class of primary children. That day they were engaged in making pictures by sticking beans and lentils of various colours on sheets of paper. The glue ran out and the teacher had to leave the class to get more. Before she did so she delivered a word of caution, “While I’m out of the room, whatever you do, don’t put any of the beans up your nose.” Such an idea may not have entered the minds of the little angels with their piles of beans until it was uttered by the teacher, but having been uttered it was their only thought. You can imagine the consequence.

There is something perverse in the human psyche. If we see a door with a sign in large letters, KEEP OUT, we long to know what is behind it – and if no-one is looking, we may venture to take a peek. Such rebellious tendencies are dangerous. Trying to live by law only has the perverse result of tempting us to cross boundaries.

But all of that has now changed. In Christ, Paul died to that old system of law with its incessant demands. In Christ he has been set free; raised to live a new life. His life is no longer shaped by the external code of the old Jewish law but is shaped by Christ who lives within him and who is at work within by the power of his Spirit. His life is being reshaped by Christ from the inside out. The Spirit of Christ leads us to break out of the old boundaries, not to live as rebels against God but as rebels against the status quo and free citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

What is shaping our lives day by day? Jesus calls us to live not by rules, but out of a character and mind shaped by him and his Spirit. Are we constantly trying to live up to a set of moral demands that have been imposed upon us by others, or even by ourselves – trying and failing? A life lived this way is a form of deadly enslavement. Or is our life shaped by Christ who is at work within us by his Spirit? Jesus liberates us to live a life pleasing to God from the inside out. The difference is a bit like that between a horse and cart and a Ferrari. The cart has no power of its own; it is dragged along by the horse and is continually offering resistance. The Ferrari has power within and is driven by that internal power. Which would you rather be?

Thank you Lord Jesus for setting me free. But I confess, Lord, that I sometimes like the security of rules and regulations and regularly impose my own upon myself – and sometimes, in my judgments, upon others. So captivate and empower me by your Spirit that I may follow your lead in my thinking and in each step of my life. I want to be a Ferrari Lord. You are the source of my life; by your Spirit be the power that drives my life from within.

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Peter Misselbrook